Detroit Regional Chamber > Advocacy > Mar. 11 | This Week In Government: Unemployment Down In January; Number Of Those Not Working Still High; Four-Year High School Graduation Rates Increased Past Decade

Mar. 11 | This Week In Government: Unemployment Down In January; Number Of Those Not Working Still High; Four-Year High School Graduation Rates Increased Past Decade

March 11, 2022
Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, will provide members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

  1. Unemployment Down In January; Number Of Those Not Working Still High
  2. Four-Year High School Graduation Rates Increased Past Decade
  3. Waitlist For State, Psychiatric Hospital Beds Decreased
  4. Dems: GOP Jeopardizing ARPA Funds Through Inaction
  5. Slate Of Gun, Election Bills Pass House

Unemployment Down In January; Number Of Those Not Working Still High

While the state’s unemployment rate decreased in January, the total number of those who were unemployed in 2021 remained 37.9% higher than in 2019, the Department of Technology, Management and Budget said on Thursday.

Michigan’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate declined by two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.9% during January, DTMB said. Additionally, as a result of the annual revision process, the statewide December 2021 rate was revised downward by half a percentage point to 5.1%.

“Michigan’s unemployment rate declined significantly from 10.0 percent in 2020 to 5.9% in 2021,” Wayne Rourke, associate director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, said in a statement. “This was the third largest rate drop among states in 2021, as Michigan workers returned to jobs following pandemic-related layoffs.”

The state’s jobless rate was nearly a full percentage point above the national rate of 4% in January. The U.S. unemployment rate fell by 2.4 percentage points since January 2021, while the statewide rate declined by 1.5 percentage points over this period.

The number of Michigan unemployed dropped by over 200,000 in 2021, but remained 77,000, or 37.9%, above the 2019 annual average unemployment level. Further, despite the improvement in unemployment trends in 2021, Michigan’s annual average workforce fell 1.4% below 2020 levels.

Still, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer praised the numbers released Thursday, saying the state has added jobs for nine straight months and with its unemployment rate of 4.9%, has the third-fastest decrease of any state.

“Michigan’s economy is growing, and unemployment is decreasing faster than almost every other state,” Ms. Whitmer said in a statement. “Job growth has continued steadily for nine months straight, and wages and home values are going up. This is something to celebrate.”

Four-Year High School Graduation Rates Increased Past Decade

Four-year graduation rates for public high school students have increased eight of the last 10 years, with a presentation during the State Board of Education meeting on Tuesday reporting a slight dip in all high school graduation rates due to the pandemic.

Delsa Chapman, deputy superintendent of the educator division, and Scott Koenigsknecht, deputy superintendent of P-20 system and student transitions, presented the findings to the board and confirmed a rise of four-year, five-year and six-year graduates.

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students reported the highest increase of graduation rates for four-year students, showing a 25-percentage point increase from 2010-11 to 2020-21. In 2010-11, only 52.1% of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students were graduating in four years. By 2020-21, three-quarters, or 77.1%, were graduating within a four-year timeframe. As with all other racial/ethnic groups and genders, slightly more students, 77.6%, were graduating in four years prior to the pandemic.

“An important note here is that this population of students trends in high mobility rates and the enrollment fluctuates and has been notes as being one of the lower enrollment populations for students,” Chapman said.

Black and Hispanic students also reported large increases, with four-year Black graduates showing a 10.6 percentage point change in graduation rates from 2010-2011 (57%) to 2020-2021 (67.6%). As with all other racial/ethnic groups, there was a slight dip from the 2019-2020 school year when graduation rates for Black four-year graduates was 70.4%.

Hispanic and Latino students saw a 12.1 percentage point change over the last ten years, with graduation rates in 2010-2011 hitting 62.6% and increasing to 74.7% in 2020-21. In 2019-2020, 75.5% graduated in four years.

Sixty-two percent Native American or Alaska Native four-year students graduated in 2010-11 and 70.1% graduated in 2020-21, an 8.1 percentage point increase. In 2019-20, 74.2% graduated in four years.

Two or more races reported a four-year graduation rate of 68.9% in 2010-11 and 74.4% in 2020-21, a 5.5% increase. However, there was a drop in six-year graduates of 4.5 percentage points during the past decade. In 2010-11, 85.4% and 80.9% in 2020-21. In 2019-20, 79.7% graduated in four years.

White and Asian students reported four-year graduation rates above 80% and reported smaller increases than others over the past decade. White four-year graduation rates in 2010-11 were 80.1% and reached 84.1% in 2020-21, a 4-percentage point change. Asian four-year graduation rates were 87 percent and hit the highest of any racial/ethnic group in 2020-21, with 92.7% graduating in four years. This was a 5.7 percentage point change.

Similar to all other racial/ethnic groups, there was still a dip during 2019-20, with white four-year graduates reporting a rate of 85.4% and Asian four-year graduates reporting a rate of 93.4 percent.

Economically disadvantaged students reported an increase in four-year graduates as well, showing a 1.7 percentage point increase during the last five years. In 2015-16, 67.1% of these students graduated in four years and 68.8% graduated in 2020-21. They reported a decrease of 2.9% between 2019-2021, when 71.7% of economically disadvantaged students graduated in four years in 2019-20.

Compared to economically disadvantaged students, not economically disadvantaged students reported a 0.7 percentage point increase. The earliest year provided was 2017-18, with 89.7% four-year students graduating and 90.4% four-year students graduating by 2020-21.

Students with disabilities indicated a 1.6 percentage point change during the five-year period. In 2015-16, 55.4% of four-year students graduated, and 57% graduated in 2020-21.

To continue the upward trend of graduation rates, Koenigsknecht spoke to some of the efforts on behalf of the department, including the Special Education Instructional Leadership Network established in 2020. He said he meets with intermediated school district superintendents on a monthly basis to discuss the issues and problems solved.

Other methods include the Early Warning Monitoring System, a seven-step process examining data and making decisions and supports to intervene for students struggling, and personal curriculum program and the Individualized Education Program.

In 2016-17, 8,355 students used a personal curriculum and by 2020-21, 10,351 students used a personal curriculum. In 2020, 13% of students with Individualized Education Program used personal curriculum, a considerable increase from the 6 percent in 2015.

At least 96% of students with a personal curriculum graduated in 2020 and in 2017, 95% graduated with a personal curriculum, indicating consistency of high graduation rates for those who received a more individualized approach.

Dropout rates continue to decrease, however the presenters said this does not necessarily translate to higher graduation rates. Some students neither drop out nor continue, with some students moving within the state or somewhere else in the country and making it harder for schools to track. Dropout Recovery Program and Engage Michigan work to re-engage former students and help students connect with an academic coach.

“Graduation Alliance is currently assisting 126 Michigan school districts and they have received 40,000 student referrals to recapture out of the possibility of dropouts,” Chapman said.

From 2015-2021, a decrease of 1.2 percentage points of four-year dropouts was reported. During 2019-2020, the dropout rates continued to decrease despite the pandemic.

Waitlist For State, Psychiatric Hospital Beds Decreased

The House Appropriations Health and Human Services Subcommittee heard testimony Wednesday about waitlist challenges for beds in state and psychiatric hospitals, with officials from the Department of Health and Human Services reporting that the waitlist has decreased to roughly 30 adults.

Dr. George Mellos, deputy director of DHHS state hospitals administration, said the waitlist a few years ago rested at a range of roughly 150-200 individuals awaiting a bed, and they have since brought the number down to roughly 20-30 in 2019. Approximately 40 children were waiting for beds prior to the pandemic and the number has not changed much over the last two years.

Mellos said as far as facilities go, the $325 million requested in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 2022-23 fiscal year executive budget was a must, adding that the Hawthorn Center and Walter Reuther State Hospital in southeast Michigan were mid-20th Century facilities that were not built well.

He said the funds would replace an “ancient plumbing system,” and that they were doing what they could to keep the facilities compliant with accreditation standards.

“The hospitals do not have an occupational health clinic,” Mellos said. “We have mocked them up since the pandemic and so we’ve taken nurses and other staff and we’ve put them into an all-but-in-name occupational health clinic at each facility to manage the CMHs mandates in regard to infectious disease control, and now, the very important mandates from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Drug Commission in regard to workplace safety.”

The budget requests the state establish occupational health clinics in each of the five state psychiatric hospitals. It also requests an expansion of staffing infrastructure and supervision within the department for psychiatric residential treatment facilities and other transitional programs, costing the state roughly $1.1 million and eight full-time employees.

Committee Chair Rep. Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Township) asked about the $7 million and $5 million previously given to DHHS for psychiatric residential treatment facilities and was curious where it went.

Mellos and Farah Hanley, DHHS chief deputy of health, said the money was allocated community services within the department and said further details on how the money is being spent will be provided at a later date.

Rep. Phil Green (R-Millington) inquired about the number beds 15 to 20 years ago, to which Mellos guessed there was roughly 750 beds. He asked Mellos how many beds have been cut since that time, to which the deputy director replied that the number of beds has not fluctuated much. However, cuts have been made due to the pandemic and staffing shortages during the last two decades.

Green also asked about those who were displaced in emergency rooms for long periods of time while waiting to be placed in a hospital.

“There are two types of beds: probate process beds … and forensic process beds, there is a court order in place for a person to come to our facilities,” Mellos said. “They are in competition. We have probate patients needing also to be approved through community mental health. … I get calls all the time from emergency departments for people who have been in there for a really long time who are reimbursed through private insurance. They still have to be approved by community mental health to stay at the state hospitals.”

Mellos added that the competition is significant and they are proposing to increase the number of forensic process beds so they can address the probate process bed issues.

Dems: GOP Jeopardizing ARPA Funds Through Inaction

If Michigan loses its American Rescue Plan Act funds it will solely be Republican’s fault for failing to move the federal aid after being in the state’s hands for nearly a year, House Democratic leaders said Thursday.

House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski of Scio Township, Minority Floor Leader Yousef Rabhi of Ann Arbor and Rep. Rachel Hood of Grand Rapids convened on the steps of the Capitol to again lambaste Republican leadership to allocate Michigan’s ARPA funds in a timely manner.

Republicans, notably House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Thomas Albert of Lowell and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake, have stressed that there is no rush to allocate this federal funding and that the party wants to be methodical with spending.

A House Fiscal Agency overview from February shows the state still has $6.04 billion in ARPA funding left to spend, or just under 42% of the initial monies. Conversely, the state has almost $5.3 million left in CARES Act funding, or around 0.1%.

That ARPA figure comprises money initially doled out through the ARP, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund and the State Fiscal Recovery funds.

“The toll on our families, children, schools and the workforce has been unimaginable,” Lasinski said of the COVID-19 pandemic. “And this is why it’s unconscionable that the hard earned dollars of Michiganders, the dollars that we have paid in federal tax dollars that could be helping us here, at home, are gathering dust for over a year.”

She added that should the Legislature continue to not move these dollars then it put “a target” on Michigan’s ARPA funding, wherein the federal government could see this as a sign the state didn’t need this extreme surplus of funding.

Rabhi then took that a step forward in his own comments, saying: “The more you sit on it, the more we risk losing it.”

“Why is it that Republicans seem to have become the party of fiscal irresponsibility? With every proposal that we’ve seen in the last few weeks, it seems it’s about fiscal irresponsibility,” he said. “And, by the way, it is very fiscally irresponsible as a state legislator, as those that are responsible for handling our public dime in the state of Michigan – to sit on federal money that could be spent in our state. If you want relief for working families, then allocate the dollars.”

Hood, too, said that there have been several business closures in her district that she felt could have been stymied if the Legislature made sure “that these dollars got swiftly in their hands.” She also slammed Republicans for continuing to push tax cuts that would largely benefit the wealthiest of Michiganders while dribbling out dollars for the lowest earners.

“It’s with Democratic leadership that we’ve been able to save our businesses, but efforts by Republicans will only blow holes in our state budget, slash taxes for the wealthy and squander our tax dollars by sending federal relief dollars back to DC – threatening to take Michigan backwards, instead of forward,” Hood said.

When later asked how Michigan compared to other states, regarding their allocation of ARPA funds, Lasinski said Indiana has 100 percent allocated its funds and that we were “far behind” others in the Midwest.

“We are clearly in a place where, Republicans …I believe, due to largely political reasons, have determined that they do not want to get these dollars out the door and to the people of Michigan,” she said.

Slate Of Gun, Election Bills Pass House

Elections, gun rights and employment security were the dominating topics of bills House lawmakers passed Thursday, most of which came down along party lines.

As is the case with any election law to pass through the lower chamber, most of these votes passed along party lines. These included:

  • HB 4897, authorizing election challengers to work at a city or township clerk’s office or their satellite office on Election Day, which passed 54-47.
  • HB 5288, prohibiting the use of a digital or electronic signature to sign an absent voter ballot application, which passed 58-43.
  • HB 5268, prohibiting the sending of unsolicited absent voter ballot applications by local clerks and prohibiting the Department of State from sending any applications, which passed 56-45.
  • HB 4876, requiring election inspectors to file an affidavit indicating political party affiliation, which passed 55-46.
  • And HB 5253, prohibiting the acceptance of gifted money or goods from a nongovernmental entity for the purposes of obtaining election-related equipment, which passed 57-44.

A few Democratic lawmakers rose in opposition to the bills while their Republican sponsors rose in support. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has already vetoed bills with similar policies.

There were also several bills pertaining to firearms before the body as well. Up first in that arena was SB 11, which passed the chamber 58-43. The bill would require concealed pistol licenses to be processed during a declared emergency.

It bore similarities to HB 5187 and HB 5188 which also passed on the House floor Thursday – the first in a 61-40 vote and the second 62-39.

Collectively the House bills would prohibit the governor, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services and local health officer from issuing orders otherwise authorized during an emergency or epidemic (as applicable) regarding certain activities related to firearms and dangerous weapons. They also provide civil remedies for damages arising from a violation of their provisions.

Other gun related bills to see approval Thursday was HB 4078, which passed 65-36, and HB 4003, which passed 74-27. The former bill seeks to allow a person to transport or possess a loaded firearm in or on a vehicle on private property if they are with or have the permission of the property owner or lessee. The latter would reduce penalties for carrying a firearm with an expired concealed pistol license.

In the realm of employment security, HB 5555 passed unanimously. Part of a larger package, the bill deals with employers that incur an unemployment tax obligation for a single quarter at least 50% more than their obligation for the immediately preceding year.

In that instance, they can distribute that increase over the following three quarters. UIA would have to provide employers notice of the payment option.

Additionally, HB 5664 passed in a 63-38 vote. This bill would provide that the Unemployment Insurance Agency could not require an employer to provide a book, record or paper for examining or copying in a form other than the form in which that book, record or paper exists at that time.